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About this poet

Siegfried Sassoon was born on September 8, 1886, in Kent, England. He attended Kent's New Beacon School and Marlborough College before attending Clare College, Cambridge, in 1905. While there, he privately published his first volume of poetry in 1906. He left Cambridge before receiving a degree and spent several years privately publishing his verse, including a parody of John Masefield called The Daffodil Murderer (John Richmond, 1913).

Sassoon is primarily known for his his poems inspired by his experiences in World War I, which were originally published in three volumes: Picture-Show (Heinemann, 1919), Counter-Attack and Other Poems (Heinemann, 1918), and The Old Huntsman (Heinemann, 1917).

Sassoon enlisted at the beginning of the war, in 1914, but a riding accident delayed his commission. In April 1915 his brother was killed at Gallipoli, and in May 1915 Sassoon was commisioned to the Royal Welch Fusiliers and soon left to fight in France. He returned to England in 1916, to recover from an illness, and in 1917, to recover from a gunshot wound. During these periods he developed ties to several pacifists, including Bertrand Russell. In June 1917 he wrote a statement protesting the war that was read aloud in the House of Commons. The poet Robert Graves helped him avoid a court martial through a diagnosis of neurasthenia, and as a result, he was hospitalized at the Craiglockhart War Hospital. While there, he became friends with the poet Wilfred Owen. He returned to France in 1918, where he was wounded by friendly fire.

After World War I, Sassoon published a series of fictionalized autobiographies known collectively as The Memoirs of George Sherston, and he also served as the literary editor of the Daily Herald for several years. Sassoon was gay, and after the war he had a series of relationships with other men before marrying Hester Gatty in 1933. Together they had a son, George Sassoon, before separating in 1945. In 1951 he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He died on September 1, 1967. On November 11, 1985, his name was added to a memorial in Westminter Abbey's Poet's Corner.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
Sequences (Faber and Faber, 1956)
The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon (Heinemann, 1919)
Picture-Show (Heinemann, 1919)
Counter-Attack and Other Poems (Heinemann, 1918)
The Old Huntsman (Heinemann, 1917)

Prose
Siegfried's Journey (Faber and Faber, 1945)
The Weald of Youth (Faber and Faber, 1942)
Sherston's Progress (Faber and Faber, 1936)
Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (Faber and Faber, 1930)
Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (Faber and Gwyer, 1928)

A Working Party

Three hours ago he blundered up the trench,
Sliding and poising, groping with his boots;
Sometimes he tripped and lurched against the walls
With hands that pawed the sodden bags of chalk.
He couldn't see the man who walked in front;
Only he heard the drum and rattle of feet
Stepping along the trench-boards,—often splashing
Wretchedly where the sludge was ankle-deep.

Voices would grunt, "Keep to your right,—make way!"
When squeezing past the men from the front-line:
White faces peered, puffing a point of red;
Candles and braziers glinted through the chinks
And curtain-flaps of dug-outs; then the gloom
Swallowed his sense of sight; he stooped and swore
Because a sagging wire had caught his neck.
A flare went up; the shining whiteness spread
And flickered upward, showing nimble rats,
And mounds of glimmering sand-bags, bleached with rain;
Then the slow, silver moment died in dark.

The wind came posting by with chilly gusts
And buffeting at corners, piping thin
And dreary through the crannies; rifle-shots
Would split and crack and sing along the night,
And shells came calmly through the drizzling air
To burst with hollow bang below the hill.

Three hours ago he stumbled up the trench;
Now he will never walk that road again:
He must be carried back, a jolting lump
Beyond all need of tenderness and care;
A nine-stone corpse with nothing more to do.

He was a young man with a meagre wife
And two pale children in a Midland town;
He showed the photograph to all his mates;
And they considered him a decent chap
Who did his work and hadn't much to say,
And always laughed at other people's jokes
Because he hadn't any of his own.

That night, when he was busy at his job
Of piling bags along the parapet,
He thought how slow time went, stamping his feet,
And blowing on his fingers, pinched with cold.

He thought of getting back by half-past twelve,
And tot of rum to send him warm to sleep
In draughty dug-out frowsty with the fumes
Of coke, and full of snoring, weary men.

He pushed another bag along the top,
Craning his body outward; then a flare
Gave one white glimpse of No Man's Land and wire;
And as he dropped his head the instant split
His startled life with lead, and all went out.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon, born in England in 1886, is best known for his poems inspired by his experiences in World War I. Also a novelist, Sassoon died on September 1, 1967.

by this poet

poem
Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark green fields; on; on; and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted,
And beauty came like the setting sun.
My heart was shaken with tears and
poem

"Pass it along, the wiring party's going out"—
And yawning sentries mumble, "Wirers going out."
Unravelling; twisting; hammering stakes with muffled thud,
They toil with stealthy haste and anger in their blood.

The Boche sends up a flare. Black forms stand rigid there,
Stock-still like

poem

Shaken from sleep, and numbed and scarce awake,
Out in the trench with three hours' watch to take,
I blunder through the splashing mirk; and then
Hear the gruff muttering voices of the men
Crouching in cabins candle-chinked with light.
Hark! There's the big bombardment on our right